Feeds

Google to double encryption key lengths for SSL certs by year's end

2048-bit keys will be the norm

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Google is about to start the first upgrade to its SSL certification system in recent memory, and will move to 2048-bit encryption keys by the end of 2013. The first tranche of changes is planned for August 1.

The new requirements are laid out in a blog post and a FAQ on the topic. The upgrade, based on the guidelines from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will also see Google's root certificate for signing all of its SSL certificates getting an upgrade from a 1024-bit key.

"There aren't immediate concerns about these certificates being cracked," a Google spokesman told El Reg, "but updating them now provides much better defense against any future risks."

The upgrade is required because NIST thinks it's technically possible that the standard could be broken pretty soon. The first reported factorization of a 768-bit RSA modulus came in December 2009, when an international team of computer scientists and cryptographers spent two-and-a-half years dedicating themselves to the task.

"A 1024-bit RSA modulus is still about one thousand times harder to factor than a 768-bit one," the researchers reported. "If we are optimistic, it may be possible to factor a 1024-bit RSA modulus within the next decade.

"We can confidently say that if we restrict ourselves to an open community, academic effort as ours and unless something dramatic happens in factoring, we will not be able to factor a 1024-bit RSA modulus within the next five years. After that, all bets are off."

NIST estimates it would take six or seven years for any attempt to have a realistic chance of success at breaking 1,024-bit keys, based on the speed of processor development and improvements in factoring computation.

That said, it's still an estimate, and NIST had wanted to get the changeover done faster, with 2010 picked as the original transition date. But because the 1,024-bit standard was so ubiquitous, the schedule was pushed back until the end of this year.

It's the first time anyone can remember the SSL encryption keys getting changed at Google, and it's a measure of the power and sophistication of computer processors that the update is needed. Barring some breakthrough in quantum computing or coding practice, it should be some years before another upgrade is required. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.